Sharks

The 2017-18 Sharks are a team that confounds the punditocracy

The 2017-18 Sharks are a team that confounds the punditocracy

The National Hockey League has stealthily crept up upon us and has finally landed, beginning its new season with four games, including a historically monumental matchup between the Philadelphia Flyers and San Jose Sharks.

And yes, that is sarcasm.

But it is also an apt opener because San Jose is a difficult team to figure under any circumstances. They are 15 months removed from their only Stanley Cup Final appearance but three months removed from a tepid first round chase-out by the Edmonton Oilers. They went from being a difficult counterpuncher to a good example of old-school hockey, skated into puddles by a younger, faster team just learning how good it can be.

Put another way, Edmonton hosts Calgary Wednesday in a game most hockey fans will find far more compelling.

The difference is that Edmonton has Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl and an army of other younger and more intrepid players, while the Sharks are making a more concerted but still difficult transition from a largely veteran team to a younger faster one. And that is trying to be created despite the fact that their most important players are north of 30.

Toward that end, the Sharks need bounce-back years from most of their forwards, given that they finished a dull 19th in offense and a disastrous 25th on the power play. Their defense has never been deeper or better based on its 2017 performance, but things have a way of bouncing up and down year to year in all hockey areas, so the Sharks need as much from Timo Meier and Tomas Hertl and Kevin Labanc as from Joe Pavelski and Joe Thornton and Logan Couture.

They also need a better season from goalie Martin Jones. Better, as in centerpiece – if San Jose’s offense does not improve, his reputation as a solid goalie will have to inch closer to Carey Price/Sergei Bobrovsky/Braden Holtby levels. Jones was fine enough last year, and clearly was the best player the Sharks had in their Edmonton series, but his save percentages (.918 and .912 as a Shark) need to improve above .920 if he is to become a more bonafide game-stealer.

Finally, the Sharks need to rekindle a fan base that has found more ways to skip games than attend them. The home-ice advantage they have always boasted improved last year after a few years of aggressive meh-itude (though they were 26th the year they got to the Final), and they got the typical Cup-Final bump, but the year before they dipped below 17,000 in attendance and the impression is that the fan base needs more stimulation than just opening the doors.

San Jose is a team that confounds the punditocracy – some think they have too much pride to fade from relevance, while others see the game changing without them. But after years of being the team everyone loved to pump up and then be disappointed by, they are now a blank slate for all involved, capable of much and yet little depending on how you choose to examine them.

Maybe they confuse even themselves.

Sharks hang on to beat Blues and open road trip with win

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USATSI

Sharks hang on to beat Blues and open road trip with win

BOX SCORE

ST. LOUIS -- Logan Couture and Mikkel Boedker each had a goal and an assist, sending the San Jose Sharks to a 3-2 victory over the slumping St. Louis Blues on Tuesday night.

Joonas Donskoi also scored and Martin Jones made 30 saves for San Jose, which has won five of its last six games.

Ivan Barbashev and Vladimir Tarasenko had the goals for the Blues, who have lost a season-high four straight.

After a scoreless first period, the teams combined for five goals in the second.

San Jose took a 1-0 lead when Couture knocked in a loose puck at 6:35. Boedker fired in a shot from the point that goalie Carter Hutton blocked but couldn't corral. Couture was on the spot and scored his 24th of the season.

St. Louis answered at 8:23 when Barbashev scored on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that sailed over Jones' arm.

Donskoi beat Hutton on a wrist shot from the left circle at 12:05. Couture assisted on Donskoi's first goal in 17 games.

Boedker gave San Jose a 3-1 lead at 15:54 when he scored from the left side of the net. Boedker has five goals in his last four games.

Tarasenko cut the margin to 3-2 on a power play when he fired in the rebound of a shot by Vince Dunn at 19:36 for his 24th of the season. Tarasenko has 10 points in his last nine games (four goals, six assists) against the Sharks.

San Jose's Brent Burns prevented a goal with less than five minutes left. During a scramble in front of the net, the puck hit the post and was sliding along the goal line when Burns knocked it out.

This was the first meeting between St. Louis and San Jose this season. The Blues swept the three-game season series last year, outscoring the Sharks 11-3 overall, and had won four straight against the Sharks.

Hutton made his second start in the last five games and stopped 20 shots. Previously against the Sharks, he was 4-0-1 with a 0.98 goals-against average, a .968 save percentage and two shutouts in five career starts.

NOTES: The Sharks acquired C Eric Fehr from Toronto for a seventh-round pick in the 2020 draft. ... Blues C Vladimir Sobotka was out of the lineup with an illness. It was the first game he has missed this season. ... The Blues have recalled forward Sammy Blais from the AHL for the fourth time this season. Blais, who leads the San Antonio Rampage with 28 points (11 goals, 17 assists), last played for St. Louis on Dec. 16, when he got hurt against Winnipeg. ... San Jose forward Tomas Hertl missed another game with an upper-body injury.

UP NEXT

Sharks: At the Nashville Predators on Thursday.

Blues: Host the Winnipeg Jets on Friday.

Sharks pick up first win of homestand as Burns moves back to blueline

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AP

Sharks pick up first win of homestand as Burns moves back to blueline

BOX SCORE

SAN JOSE --Brent Burns and Chris Tierney each had a goal and an assist, and the San Jose Sharks beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-1 on Thursday for their third win in four games.

Mikkel Boedker and Marcus Sorensen also scored for the Sharks, who improved to 3-0-1 against the Canucks this season. Martin Jones stopped 29 shots.

Daniel Sedin scored for the Canucks, who lost their sixth in seven games. Anders Nilsson made 40 stops.

Boedker scored at 8:41 of the first period, picking up a soft rebound from Tierney's shot.

Burns scored his 10th goal, tops among NHL defensemen, taking a pass from Joakim Ryan and sending a laser shot into the net just under five minutes into the second.

Sorensen scored his first goal since Dec. 23, punching it in with an assist from Justin Braun at 3:06 into the third. Marc-Edouard Vlasic had an assist in his third straight game, getting the second assist on Sorensen's goal.

Sedin scored at 6:43, taking a nice pass from Thomas Vanek that gave him clear shot into the net. It was Sedin's 14th goal, one shy of his total last season.

Tierney made it 4-1 after taking a nice pass from Burns with 7 1/2 minutes remaining.

NOTES:Tim Heed was recalled from the AHL and joined a makeshift Sharks lineup, allowing Burns to play up front at times. ... Sharks C Logan Couture has points in four of his last five games. ... Boedker recorded games in consecutive games for the second time this season, and the first since Jan. 15-16. ... Sedin has five points against the Sharks this season and 45 in 69 games. He's recorded points in three straight.

UP NEXT

Canucks: Host Boston on Saturday.

Sharks: Host Dallas on Sunday.